UPDATED, 4:59 PM: After having been stung by a series of sexual harassment and racial discriminations lawsuits that have seen top executives pink-slipped and ratings magnet Bill O’Reilly put out to pasture, a threatened Fox is fighting back today
“Mr. Wigdor’s allegation regarding his client Jessica Golloher is without merit,” a 21st Century Fox spokesperson told Deadline on Wednesday of the promised upcoming lawsuit proclaimed by attorney Douglas Wignor for the Fox News Radio correspondent. “Any suggestion of discrimination or retaliation is baseless,” the media giant added with the usual language for such corporate reactions. “We will vigorously defend the matter.”
Of course, beyond releasing statements, there isn’t a lot of vigorous defending that 21CF can do until the NYC lawyer actually files a suit — which Wignor has not done for Middle East-based Golloher. The first whiff of the potential action came in a letter Wignor sent to UK regulators today throwing distinct legal and ethical shade on Fox’s desire to purchase full control of European pay TV powerhouse Sky.
Ofcom have said they will issue a decision on the acquisition on June 20, about two weeks after the recently called British general election. So, on all fronts, stay tuned
PREVIOUSLY, 2:15 PM: Coming on the heels of big-name exits and already facing a swath of sexual harassment and racial discrimination lawsuits, Fox News is about to be hit again by legal action from a former on-air talent.
In a potentially damning letter (read it here) to UK regulators with a say in approving 21st Century Fox’s $14.4 billion bid to acquire the rest of Sky, attorney Doug Wigdor today not only reiterated past corporate sins of the Rupert Murdoch-run cable newser but threw a new litigation grenade in as well.
While nothing has been filed, Wignor reveled that his NYC-based firm has been retained to represent now ex-Fox News Radio correspondent Jessica Golloher in an upcoming discrimination action.
“It is telling that Fox uses attorneys who are so willing to bring meritless retaliatory actions against employees who allege discrimination in order to intimidate those employees and silence their allegations,” the letter to Ofcom Chief Executive Sharon White says. “This practice, in addition to requiring many employees to sign arbitration clauses to prevent them from publicly disclosing Fox’s unlawful conduct, undercut any claim that Fox’s Corporate Governance has any real interest in resolving its internal problems,” it adds, setting up the kicker.
“Indeed, the new Head of Human Resources, Kevin Lord, sent an email to Fox News employees inviting them to raise issues regarding misconduct at Fox with, inter alia, Fox’s outside counsel,” the exhibits heavy correspondence also says. “Fox News Radio’s Middle East/North Africa Correspondent, Jessica Golloher, followed Mr. Lord’s direction and sent an email to Fox’s outside counsel to put the Company on notice of her intent to complain about additional unlawful discrimination. Ms. Golloher was terminated within 24 hours. Ms. Golloher has retained our Firm and will be moving forward with litigation on her behalf shortly.”
Golloher has been with Fox News Radio full time since July 2014. Upon request for comment on the matter, Fox News directed Deadline to parent 21st Century Fox, who did not respond. Wigdor himself did not respond to questions about when a complaint from Golloher would be filed.
The latest lawsuit salvo and the Ofcom lettercomes as the UK regulator recently postponed until June 20 a decision on signing off on Fox’s takeover of the 61% of Sky Broadcasting it doesn’t already own. The delay in the recommendation is ostensibly to wait until after the just-called British election June 8.
In the letter, Wigdor wrote that he currently represents “13 current and former employees of 21st Century Fox who have experienced egregious race discrimination throughout their employment with Fox News, including “being subjected to myriad racist comments, disparate pay and a ‘glass ceiling’ when it comes to career advancement.”
Among Ofcom’s remits in such takeovers is determining whether the company in question is “fit and proper” to own a UK firm. Wigdor says Rupert Murdoch’s Fox does not meet the standard. The European Commission approved Fox-Sky deal last month.
A spate of sexual harassment and other legal actions have dogged Fox News since Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against then-Fox News president Roger Ailes. Other women have since come forward with similar claims. Fox News star Bill O’Reilly exited following revelations in the New York Times that O’Reilly and FNC paid nearly $13M to settle cases with five women going back 15 years. As further fallout, Bill Shine, an Ailes protege, resigned Monday as co-president.